3 accused in FIU cheating scandal [Sun Sentinel]
(South Florida Sun Sentinel (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 11--By Scott Travis
Two students and one alumnus at Florida International University have been accused of a scheme that involved hacking into a professor's computer, stealing a pivotal test and distributing copies to students willing to pay $150 a pop, officials said.
The case, which resulted in three arrests on felony charges, is the latest of several high-profile cheating allegations at state universities in recent years.
Police say Alex Fabian Anaya, 30, an FIU alumnus, logged into a professor's email account in 2012 to access four test exams, and then organized a distribution system where he was paid up to $150 per person for a copy of the stolen exam. Police equated the alleged crime to breaking into someone's house and stealing their property. Anaya was charged with dealing in stolen property, felony theft and burglary of an unoccupied structure.
Two current students, Krissy Alexandra Lamadrid, 24, and Jason Anthony Calderon, 24, were charged with dealing in stolen property. Police say they sold exams to other students. Anaya and Lamadrid couldn't be reached for comment, while Calderon declined comment.
Anaya "stated that he was well aware that his actions were illegal," according to the FIU police report. Lamadrid and Calderon said they knew the exams were stolen, according to the police report.
FIU officials say police and "appropriate academic administrative offices" continue to investigate.
"FIU will pursue all avenues to ensure that everyone who is involved is held accountable," FIU said. "Also, pertinent policies and procedures will be reviewed in light of this investigation."
FIU officials did not name the professor or the class.
Officials at Florida colleges say while they aren't seeing any increases in academic dishonesty, students are getting more sophisticated.
"Cheating has been going on for a long time, but what has changed is the technology," said Ralph Rogers, provost at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. "There are very small devices, essentially a watch, where you can access the Internet, and that has become a challenge."
The University of Central Florida made national news in November 2010, when students in a business class bought a test bank sold online. It was shared with 200 students in the class, leading to unusually high grades.
The instructor, Richard Quinn, confronted students, who were required to come clean and take an ethics class or face expulsion. Most admitted their involvement.
A cheating scandal involving the athletic program at Florida State University resulted in a four-year probation in 2009. An FSU athlete reported he'd been instructed by a learning specialist to take an online quiz for another athlete. The university then discovered that 61 athletes in 10 sports, including football and men's basketball, had committed varying degrees of academic fraud. Most of the wrongdoing occurred in an online music course.
The Alligator, the student newspaper for the University of Florida, reported a 2012 case where a professor discovered that 242 students in a computer science class had cheated.
UF is now studying new ways to combat cheating as it launches an online university in the spring. This includes software that uses cameras to monitor students as they take tests, said Jen Day Shaw, dean of students.
While cheating allegations aren't unusual, most don't lead to criminal charges. More common is for students to receive a grade penalty, and be sent to an ethics class. They may face academic probation, or in some cases get expelled.
NSU's Rogers said criminal charges are appropriate in the FIU case if the allegations are true.
"It's a very serious issue to hack into a computer and steal information," he said. "Someone didn't just find this information lying around."
Staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report, which was supplemented by the Orlando Sentinel.
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